It was a new church. It was a young church. It was a church in Asia made up of recent converts from Islam.
The multinational team of missionaries working in this area were pleased with what God was doing there. Previous ministry had not been very successful. The handful of converts over the past decades had never coalesced into a functioning national church.
Now it seemed the spirit of God was moving among these people in ways not previously seen and even beyond the expectations and hopes of the missionaries. Muslims were listening to the message. Some were putting their faith in Christ. Some of those had been openly baptized. Evangelism moved into discipleship.
One day several of the new converts came to the leaders of the missionary team.
“What is this?” They said pointing to some passages in their Bibles. “You have told us how important it is to read God’s word. We have been doing this with you and on our own.”
Pointing out 1 Corinthians 11:20, they said “this man [Paul] writes about something he calls the Lord’s supper. This seems to be what Jesus did with his disciples before his crucifixion. Paul writes as if it is something believers should be doing even now, but we are not doing this. Would you help us understand?”
“Yes, this is something which Christians do now,” one of the missionaries spoke up. “In fact, when we missionaries are together we do it. But it's a practice not understood or accepted well by your family and friends who are still Muslim. We were afraid if you began practicing the Lord’s supper, you would be persecuted. You might even be harmed or killed because of it.”
“That's not our problem!” spoke up the boldest of the new church members. “If this is something we are supposed to do, we must do it. We are Christians. You have already taught us to be faithful to the teaching of God’s word. If others don't understand, that’s their problem. If we are persecuted, that’s God’s problem. Our only problem is to be faithful to the God we now serve.”
“Now,” he continued, “please sit with us and help us understand the Lord’s supper.”
This is what we’re looking for when we who follow Christ take his message to those who don’t. We can’t force people to believe, but when they do, we can – and must – follow Jesus’ own words, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
We must teach from God’s word. That means we must teach them everything God gave us while being careful not to mix cultural or organizational norms with actual scriptural command and example.
As these new believers grow in Christ, we have to trust them to understand and apply that Biblical teaching to their own situation. After all, the same Holy Spirit who lives in us now lives in them. Under his guidance, they will understand what to do and when to do it. They will learn what it means to count the cost of following Jesus.
This story is true. I received it from the leader of this team of missionaries. I have gone back to her several times to make sure I remembered correctly, and, more importantly, that I was telling the story accurately. I even have photos of the first communion service held in this Muslim convert church.
I share it here to encourage you. The God who said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), is still breaking through spiritual strongholds to establish his church around the world.